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PhotoCred: Sherdog/Bellator

Bellator 261 provides familiarity for Liz Carmouche while reversing roles

Liz Carmouche had her name instantly thrown into the title contenders hat upon her late 2019 arrival in Bellator.

However, the former two-time UFC belt challenger has been prompted to truly earn her way to the top. Bellator 262 on July 16 features newly crowned unbeaten champion Juliana Velasquez defending against former Bellator Kickboxing titleholder, “Miss Dynamite” Denise Kielholtz.

“I was a little surprised when I saw she was booked in July,” Carmouche told MyMMANews regarding Velasquez. “This [next fight] was a last-minute phone call and I had seen that come out not too shortly after that. I was like, ‘Ah, man. How is she fighting somebody else and not me? That’s funny…’ But like I said when I came into Bellator, I absolutely worked for my ranks and I in no way think I deserved to get into title contention immediately off the boat. If I have to clean out the division to get there, that’s fine by me. I’ll clean them out, get my paydays, get my time in, more reps into that cage in preparation to fight.”

The now-37-year old Carmouche has fought for a full decade against multiple generations of fighters.

To perfectly display that, you’d have to look no further than “Girlrilla’s” last as well as next fight. Carmouche welcomed Invicta FC champion and MMA pioneer, Vanessa Porto, to the promotion at Bellator 256 in April.

As one of the more seasoned competitors competing among the 125-pound ranks these days, Carmouche found herself beat in the experience category against the Brazilian. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as she still came out with her hand raised via unanimous judges’ call.

“It really did [feel like a title fight before the title fight],” Carmouche said. “Being that she had more experience, this will be my 21st fight, she had 30 fights on me. So it certainly was somebody that had, ‘Okay, this feels like I’m fighting for the belt but I’m not actually fighting the champion.’ And coming from a different organization, it doesn’t take away from her championship ability. So for me, it was honestly a good prep in anticipation of this fight being in contention for the next belt.”

PhotoCred: Sherdog/Bellator

The Lafayette, Louisiana native in Liz Carmouche started her career off relatively fast with no amateur fights. Three pro wins later and she’d find herself as a player in the 135-pound Strikeforce talent pool.

Competing for the title against the legendary Marloes Coenen in just her seventh fight, Carmouche came up short before helping kickstart Invicta FC. Two fights and two wins on each of the first two shows in the promotion’s history led Carmouche to what was arguably the biggest moment for women in MMA history.

Judo Olympian turned MMA superstar, Ronda Rousey, had taken the world by storm with her stunning finishes that essentially helped encourage Dana White to give the women their shot on the biggest platform. It takes two to tango, and Carmouche got the invitation of a lifetime.

Eight years later and Carmouche comes full circle in many ways but with roles reversed. She’s back on Showtime in Bellator like Strikeforce was starting out, and now she’s taking on yet another undefeated Judoka looking to make some history.

At Bellator 261 this Friday night, Liz Carmouche offers up the biggest challenge of Japan’s 10-0-1 Kana Watanabe’s career as they battle in a flyweight co-main event. A title shot appears undeniable for the winner as it’s a clash of No. 2 vs. No. 3 ranked contenders in the division.

Kana Watanabe may bend but won’t break in pivotal Bellator 261 matchup with Liz Carmouche

“It’s a fun one for me,” Carmouche said of her upcoming bout. “When you have someone that’s an expert in their field, that’s always a lot more fun to challenge because I want to see where I pair up against somebody who’s great at something specifically. Whether I can defeat them at their best or just match them side by side, I always like to see, ‘Okay, well this person was a 10-year Muay Thai fighter. Cool, then I want to see how I do with stand up.’ So it’s fun to be like okay, this is going to be a challenge from those respects.”

If Carmouche sees one clear advantage, she believes it’s largely in her striking. Additionally, since her historic encounter with Rousey, she’s gone out of her way to get some one-on-one time with the Olympic bronze medalist’s former coach, Justin Flores.

At this stage, there just isn’t much that Liz Carmouche hasn’t seen in the sport of MMA.

“Then also to have the opportunity to give [Watanabe] her first loss is, of course, always a satisfying feeling,” Carmouche said. “But I try and study the top 10 in every organization I’m in, every weight class I’m in, so I understand potentially at any point who I could be facing. It doesn’t really come as a surprise. So I had already been studying tape on her in anticipation that, ‘Oh, this is a matchup that could happen down the road.’ I was like, ‘Okay, cool. We’ve studied her, we know exactly about her. Liz is ready, I can take this on four week’s notice because I already know what to expect and we’ve already put together a gameplan for this particular opponent.”

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